In Defense of Jamie Lynne Grumet and Attachment Parenting

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So yesterday I wrote about how I HATED the cover image and the title (Are You Mom Enough?) of the piece in TIME about Attachment Parenting and extended breastfeeding (the cover image is included in yesterday’s post). I still hate the cover image and the title (oh, that title!). I still hate that TIME is trying to make AP and extended breastfeeding look as weird and sensational as possible. I still hate the implications of the title (as if AP and extended breastfeeding are only for women who are extreme and trying to prove something to other parents through their parenting choices instead of making decisions about what’s right for their children because they love them).

So, not thrilled with TIME. That being said. I was shocked at some of the personal attacks on the mother in the cover image (Jamie Lynne Grumet). I’ve seen the image called pornographic (oh, please), and even, bizarrely, the willingness to feature her three-year-old nursing on the cover as a form of child abuse and the mother as a self-absorbed exhibitionist. REALLY? COME ON.

I so wish that TIME had used this image on the cover instead of the hand-on-the-hip-nursing-while-standing one:

Photo credit: Martin Schoeller for TIME

Isn’t that beautiful? The way she’s cradling him. The look of proud, glowing love. I think it’s gorgeous. Why, oh, why, didn’t they use this picture instead of choosing one that makes extended breastfeeding look as weird as possible?

I was also shocked to see what some of the articles and comments were saying about attachment parenting. I read The Baby Book by Dr. Sears when I was pregnant with Benjamin. We don’t really label ourselves attachment parents because we are constantly altering our methods to do what’s best for our family at the current time. But I co-sleep, baby wear, breastfeed Lucy (exclusively for 6 months on demand, no pacifiers, no bottles, serious business), and am really never separated from her (I even take her to the ballet studio when I go to work and pay a babysitter to hold her so she is close by and can nurse before and after class). I don’t think this is the only way to parent. I have dear friends who have very different methods and very happy, thriving babies. But, for several reasons, I think an attachment style can be a very good thing.

First of all, it creates a family-centered life. In order to implement many of the AP tenets, families have to be together. I think it also places great value on motherhood itself (something that, sadly, isn’t typical in our culture). Only the mama can provide breastmilk for her baby. She is necessary, special, important. Also, AP promotes the idea that a mother’s instincts should not be ignored. Respect for a mother’s intuition about what her baby needs is encouraged by AP. That’s not to say that every mother always does what’s best for her baby at all times, but in general (and from my own experience) I think a mother’s instinct about her baby is almost always right. I think it’s very positive to promote the idea that a mother should know her baby and should be the one making choices about how to care for them.

So, there it is. At least that cover is making us talk about these important issues, right?

Would you like to chime in? Does this other photograph give you a different perspective?


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  1. amy griffin says

    Oh, my! I love that picture. I breastfed Laith ’til 2 and Bela ’til 3.5…never really planned on it, but it just happened. Eventually I’d had enough of nursing two people (and there was this really awful noise he’d make after coming into our bedroom at 5am asking to nurse, that was the reason, really), and so we planned a big ole “bye bye nee nee” party with cake and candles and everything and he was, mostly, fine. Noni is still nursing all the time at 17 months, and I love the serious business.

    The look on her son’s face, in that picture, is so beautiful. He is content, he is being nurtured, he is safe. It is so natural, and so right. It all fits. A 3 year old is still such a little one, c’mon.

    The problem with the picture that they used for the cover, in my opinion, is that they are catering to every cultural assumption about breastfeeding past infancy. It looks staged, and it looks like it could be a still from a cheezy sitcom.

    Anyhow. I mean, what can we expect? But I do wish the nurturing, more natural picture would have won out. When I look at that one, I can almost feel the love I had while nursing Bela just a few months ago. It is such a special time…

    • Haley says

      “The problem with the picture that they used for the cover, in my opinion, is that they are catering to every cultural assumption about breastfeeding past infancy. It looks staged, and it looks like it could be a still from a cheezy sitcom.”

      That is so, right, Amy!

  2. Jenna says

    Oh I love this picture! This shows what breastfeeding is all about. What a wonderful image. Even as I wish TIME would’ve used this image, it still would’ve gotten bad commentary, unfortunately. I am such a slacker as I’m sure this magazine issue is still sitting in my mailbox. I need to get it and read it so we can have a conversation about what the article actually says instead of just what the cover image is….in fact, I’m going out to look for it right now…


    Alas, on the note of breasfeeding, I would like to add that 3 parents commented on my being able to nurse in my Ergo and how they could only ever nurse at home for the little while that they did because they were scared they “wouldn’t be able to find a place to feed their baby” while out and about. One of these mothers is a pediatrician. Two mothers commented on my use of cloth diapers (thanks for that Haley!) and were amazed by them!

    • Haley says

      Oh Jenna, that makes so so sad for those parents! I was shocked the other day when one my 9-year-old ballerinas saw me nursing Lucy after class and said, “Miss Haley…what ARE you doing?” “I’m feeding my baby,” I told her. “How?!” she said.

      I’m glad you’re liking the cloth diapers! I’m doing a cloth diaper giveaway in the next couple of weeks and I’m really excited about it.

  3. says

    Haley-I just had to agree with you AGAIN!

    This second picture is really beautiful. The cover is so disappointing, and I’ve heard such crazy comments-even from moms who breastfeed, like “its exploiting the child” and “its so awful she’s nursing a child that big”. Its so bizarre that breastfeeding is seen as unnatural, and nursing for as long as possible should always be encouraged. I really can’t wrap my head around why people would think its a bad thing! I’m so sheltered!

  4. Lois says

    I will just chime in and say that this photo is lovely and would have been a better representative of the mothers I’ve known who are advocates of the acceptance of nursing in public and extended nursing. It seems obvious that TIME went for the more provocative and attention-getting photo rather than the more representative–but less shocking–image. sad but not surprising!

    I admit, too: my first thought was “that 3 year old is huge!”…and then I realized Benjamin is probably just as big! haha…

  5. Paul says

    I love attachment parenting; beyond the reasons you give I think it is psychologically speaking one of the best ways to treat a baby. Kudos for your dedication to the concept. I did want to point out though, that Mama’s instincts are often right in your experience at least partly because you were raised well, and are (I’m assuming here) most likely very healthily attached to your own parents. I’ve worked with Aboriginal mothers who have had no good role models for how to mother, simply because THEIR mothers were raised in residential school systems and had no good role models for how to mother. In other words, Mama’s instincts are not necessarily inherent – there is most definitely a learned, environmental component. I think that is a really valuable thing to keep in mind, if only because it prevents those of us who had the privilege of being raised well from getting too self-righteous about our abilities – not that you really struggle with that, from what I’ve read! 🙂 God bless.

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